Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “bi-Monthly Plant of Interest”. This week we’re focusing on a member of the Scrophulariaceae (Snapdragon) family.
Alecta pumila (seona in Sesotho), is dwarf haggard appearing herb of 40-80 mm tall found scattered in grasslands, usually at higher altitudes on cliff faces and proximate to rocky areas. This herbaceous spp. is endemic to the Eastern Mountain Region and grows from the Eastern Cape to Botswana at altitudes of between 1650 – 1980 m A.S.L.
A. pumila is a hemiparasitic herb meaning that it survives through 1 of 2 strategies: reliance on a grass host for nourishment or alternatively through photosynthesis as most plants do. The Latin Alektor (from which Alectra is derived), means rooster or cock, in reference to the yellow-orange colouration of the inflorescence often observed on the birds plumage. Members of the genus turn dark purple or black if bruised. Pumila is Latin-derived for small, puny or tiny, in testament of the dwarfish stature of the plant. The photo below was taken along a section of the Leucosidea trail, and is the only known specimen to have been recorded in the Clarens Nature Reserve.
The leaves of A. pumila measure 15 by 5 mm, are overlapping, covered in fine hair, stalkless and blunt tipped. The fruit occur as purple-green and ridged capsules. The inflorescence is a compacted spike with bracts that appear to have a few teeth. The flowers are dull, sometimes mustard-orange tinged with red veins and come complete with bearded filaments. Flowering occurs from Jan-Feb. Uses:
If nothing else, this specimen makes for an attractive photography subject and is one of the less-oft observed specimens found growing in the CNR.
The SANBI conservation status for A. pumila is listed as Least concern.
by Damien Coulson
Head ranger Clarens Village Nature Reserve
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